In addition to the conventional venues for obtaining maps (such as bookstores and sales offices), GIS and the Internet have made it possible to reach and educate new and potential users of geologic maps. Maps and databases now are available on the Internet in a variety of formats. Some formats (for example, Adobe® Portable Document Format, or PDF) are designed for the visual display of a map and do not require specialized software, whereas other formats (for example, ArcInfoTM) are used by professionals with the appropriate software for the detailed analysis of a map database. To provide the public with access to such analyses without requiring them to purchase the software, numerous agencies are experimenting with software that permits users to view maps and to submit queries and view results within a Web browser. This technology is becoming increasingly widespread and should prove ever more useful as the following conditions are met:
- Increased availability of digital geology information
- Standardized database structure, terminology, and interchange format
- Increased Internet bandwidth
- Advances in the software for serving map data.
New advances in mapping and preparation of map products made possible by advances in GIS and information technology have not altered the basic science of geology but offer new techniques for organizing, maintaining, and analyzing map data, and, potentially, for increasing its use by the public and by scientists.
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